In The Saddle: She’s following in my horsey footsteps

Anita Marsh
Anita Marsh

For years I’ve listened to my family moan about how dangerous horse riding is as a sport and they wished I preferred going to the gym or something else like jogging – but I’ve never fully understood their fears until my daughter has started to ride.

It’s funny how the fears of my mum are now finally understood, as a mother myself and watching my five year old daughter progress in her riding.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been the first to encourage her and she was sat on a horse very early on but it’s still scary as a horsey mum watching her ride on her own.

I’m lucky in that we have a lovely little riding school in Epworth called Skyers Farm Riding School.

I first met Gemma, the owner, when we both used to drop our pre-school children off at Coneygarth Farm Day Nursery.

It’s easy to spot another horse owner as we live in breeches and boots and like children are drawn to children, we horse riders love nothing more than chatting about our equines.

The riding school can’t take children under the age of four, so before then she was placed on my horse with both myself and my husband holding her walking her round the smaller part of our paddock.

Alyssia couldn’t reach April our horse’s ‘buttons’ to make her go, which were down the side of my mare’s body, as her legs were too little so she grew up in the saddle, having no fear of the height and asking for more and more rides. Her little riding hat and boots looked so cute on her.

Alyssia (top right) started riding at the age of four and she adores riding Rosie the pony at Skyers.

She’s already off the lead rein (where another adult or older child holds the pony at the side with a lead rein) and is happily trotting Rosie over trotting poles and on twenty metre circles.

Last week though she was put on the lunge (a long rope which attaches to the pony and enables the riding instructor to keep hold of the pony) and is now learning to canter.

More scary for me watching than her doing it, I can assure you.

Alyssia is doing really well though and will ride, like me, when it’s raining cats and dogs. I can tell she won’t be a fair weather rider.

I think she’s got a better position than me already in the saddle, it’s wonderful to see.

Her riding instructor Caroline is brilliant.

Caroline doesn’t even tell me off when I occasionally catch myself shouting instructions from the other side of the ménage when I can’t help but get too involved in the sessions.

The school has nine horses and ponies which are suitable for every type of rider – from children to adults and are pony club approved.

They offer both private and group lessons although I prefer private for Alyssia as I like the one-to-one instruction she gets with her still being young.

As for a pony? Surprisingly I’ll be holding off one as long as possible because I can guess who will end up stuck doing all the hard work as well as my own horse . . . and these columns won’t write themselves!